The Year As We Saw It

The Daily has been sent every day at 7:30am since February 2016, with a few planned exceptions for holidays and maintenance. Some of you just got here a week ago, some have been with us for over 12 months. Thank you for reading and I hope our review does a good job of showing off what we've done, and keeping you abreast of anything you missed last year.


The Macedonian border fence.

The Macedonian border fence.

Moving onward - March

We start March in Greece, where a temporary fence holding people back from the Macedonian border was torn down. Around 9,000 people were stuck at the border at the start of March following the erection of fences in mid-February, and to many this was merely the next stage in an increasingly aggravated situation, as Europe had been offering support to refugees, but was also aiding Macedonia in its efforts to stem the tide. The UN suggested that 131,724 people had already arrived in Europe by March, nearly as many as the total for the first six months of 2015.

As March continued hundreds of migrants crossed, finding a way through the border fence. Macedonia closed its border entirely, and Macedonian police detained anyone crossing the border, saying they would be returned to Greece. The police also revealed that two men and one woman had drowned in the Suva river while trying to enter their country. By the start of April it was estimated that there were in excess of 14,000 people waiting at the border.

In Zimbabwe, President Mugabe announced that the government was taking over control of the country's diamond mines. In 2015, he had ordered diamond mines to join a government conglomerate, and those that had not yet fallen under government control were finally secured. The country's diamond industry has been sullied by allegations, including killing and torture of workers, and this move was presented as a step by the central government to shore up the industry.

In South Sudan, the government's army were allegedly allowed to rape women in lieu of wages while fighting rebels, a UN report published last March claimed. The report found that over 1,000 women had been raped last year in the Unity region, in the north of the country. You can read the whole report over at the UN Human Rights Office site.

Throughout the year Ankara was hit with many suicide bombers, and March was no exception as a car bomb tore through the centre of the Turkish capital, killing at least 32 people and wounding 75 more. This was the second similar attack in the heart of the city in less than a month. The blast, which could be heard several kilometres away, sent burning debris showering down over an area just a few hundred metres from the main courthouse in Ankara, and the former office of the prime minister.

Supporters of Brazil's government joined street rallies to back President Rousseff, while her opponents in Congress started impeachment proceedings against her. Brazil's Supreme Court received a dozen motions to suspend the recent appointment of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as Rousseff's chief of staff. This all comes as riot police fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in central Sao Paulo, who had been camped out for several days, in opposition to Lula's appointment. The situation grew to become dangerously unstable, as Brazil was behind on preparations for the summer Olympics in August.

The destruction at Zaventem Airport, near Brussels.

The destruction at Zaventem Airport, near Brussels.

And of course, we pay our respects to those in Brussels, where 31 people were killed and dozens more injured in explosions at the airport, and at a station in the city centre. Two blasts were set off in the main terminal of Zaventem International Airport, leaving many injuries and a trail of destruction, while another explosion hit Maelbeek, a metro station in the city centre. Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the attacks. A day after the attacks two of the suicide bombers were been identified as Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui, Belgian nationals.

The US Presidential Election took a strong step towards completion through March, as results came through in half of all states. All predictions pointed to wins for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as both extended their leads early in the month. I think we all know what happens next.

The surface of Mercury, taken from NASA's Messenger.

The surface of Mercury, taken from NASA's Messenger.

Science and Tech

March was an abnormally good month for exciting tech and science news, so it has it's own section!

New analysis from NASA's Mercury Messenger signalled that the planet used to be encased in an outer shell of graphite. Mercury likely had a global magma ocean when it was young and the surface was even hotter than it is currently. As the magma ocean cooled and minerals began to crystallise, most solidified and would sink with the exception of graphite which, being buoyant, formed the first crust of Mercury.

Coming on in leaps and bounds, artificial intelligence claimed a significant victory against a human last March. The computer, engineered by Google, took a victory in a series of five games against Lee Se-Dol, a Go grandmaster. Go is an ancient Chinese board game, with two players vying for territory across a 19x19 grid. It makes chess look like draughts, and draughts look like tic-tac-toe, being magnitudes more complex than any other game in its class. If you'd like a deeper understanding of the game, this piece helped me comprehend how great a feat this was for a computer to achieve.

An international team of astronomers discovered four new giant exo-planets orbiting stars much bigger than our sun. The newly detected alien worlds are enormous, with masses upwards of 5 times the mass of Jupiter, and have very long orbital periods ranging from nearly two to slightly more than four Earth years.

Most Read Long Reads

  • This photo-gallery from artist Aydın Büyüktaş, called Flatland. It takes standard cityscapes, and reinvents them to present a new reality.
  • A first hand look at one of Amazon's very first physical book stores, courtesy of the New York Times. While every other retailer is running from the high street as quickly as they can, Amazon are looking to understand how it can work for them.
  • As Trump-mania began its sweep across America, it was difficult to comprehend his supporters. Bloomberg went on the hunt for answers, and attempted to understand some of the reasons working-class people have found their voice in a multi-millionaire.
  • A new batch of documents from Osama Bin Laden's "Bookshelf" was released in March, included a will regarding some $29 million, supposedly held in the Sudan. The entire vault is worth looking through, as there are hundreds of documents to uncover, but most intriguing amongst this release was a letter titled "To the American people".